31 August 2011


After a long break on the tour, the squash elite came back on scene in August in Camberra/Australia. As so often in the last 24 months, it was Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour to decide about the title. It's been a thrilling 5 gamer, with Ramy coming out fresher and more concentrated in the fifth. Absolutely no doubt, the below rally is good material both for our 'greatest rallies ever' and squash-analytics section. First thing that hits the eye is the speed and quality of some of the retrievings that are out of this cosmos, with probably the most surrealistic one at 0:48 by Ramy after a perfect nasty trickle-boast by Nick, and then the next one at 0:52, again by Ramy after a really good over-head volley-drop by Nick. Second thing to note is the way Ramy plays the cross-court: he turns the bust towards the side-wall and lets the ball slip almost behind himself to fake a straight drive, and indeed Nick is pretty much each time on the wrong foot (most noticeably at  0:22 and 1:04). Last thing I would like to note, even if it might seam a heresy in the middle of a celebration: I think at the last winning volley-drop (at 1:07) Ramy was considerably blocking Nick's path to the ball. The least to say is that the drop was far from being lethal and he cleared the ball in the wrong way. I know Nick was not asking for a 'let' (nor the commentators, Lee Beachill and Paul Johnson were contesting anything), but in my eyes this is only due to Matthew not wanting to spoil such a great rally with a 'let' outcome; I know my theory might sound naive, but I feel Matthew's general attitude (highly professional, conscious and also intellectual) enables him to look at the 'big picture' and sacrifice a point in order to raise the profile of his sport.

18 August 2011


After our last post with the same two protagonists, here we have another example of 'total' or as I allowed myself to call it: 'four corner' squash, even if the right back corner was only visited once (this is how much they mutually respect each other's forehand). And if in the previous rally Darwish finished it off at full stretch, here he concludes by keeping the arm close to the hip at the moment of impact to enable him to control the drop as much as possible; interestingly this drop was not looking for the nick, Darwish preferred to find the front-side-wall angle to make the ball bounce quickly twice on the ground. He had to play this drop with a pretty fast swing, and it was the angle's task to brake the speed of the ball and make it bounce quickly twice in a row close to the front-wall. Last time Darwish maintained control and pace whilst flicking the wrist, in the current example he could hold the wrist firm all the way down of his swing for this drop winning shot (it was the 8th drop in this 40 second rally!)

15 August 2011


If we've said that one of the most entertaining pairings in the current pro squash circuit is composed by Ramy Ashour and James Willstrop, then closely after them follow Karim Darwish with Wael El Hindi. You might remember an earlier example of hilarious attacking/retrieving squash by them, here we now another rally where they make each other visit all four corners of the court a couple of times within those 50 seconds. In the current sample I would specially like to point out Karim Darwish's wrist. We've talked a lot about his extremely compact backswing that enables him to hit any shot from any position without allowing the opponent to anticipate it; however, normally the compact backswing involves decreased power/pace. So how come Darwish can still hit the ball so hard notwithstanding the lack of momentum of the arm? The only explanation I can see is his wrist, the extreme stiffness of his wrist in the moment of hitting the ball in any position of the racket. As it can be seen, he is able to handle that wrist even in such extreme situations like at the last shot: he still managed to deploy power and total accuracy in a situation where he had to use an extreme flick of the wrist. "Well, that's what they call the Egyptian wrist" - says the commentator, Robert Edwards. Well, yes, Karim Darwish disposes of a pretty complete package in terms of an ideal squash arm: compactness, power and touch.

08 August 2011


In our last post we've had a slightly over-confused double fake by Amr Shabana, here we have James Willstrop showing the most classic way to employ it correctly right after a highish counter-drop; after a good drop your opponent digs deep to 'grab out' a counter drop, he is still about to get back from his lounge when you threaten with a big swing and a quick fake swing-through to hit a hard cross-court kill; that makes him stuck or even move back slightly and that's enough for you to execute quiet securely a second drop.On club level you might expect it to be a winner straight off, pros like Lincou might get there again to scrap the ball off the ground, but without the time to recover your next winning shot (volley in the below case). The point is to employ the double fake only when the ball (and both you and your opponent) are pretty close to the front-wall, I think.